Day 3 started very early at 5:00 am and again our idea was to cover as much ground as possible and end somewhere south of Sapporo. If this had gone according to plan we would be back on track to finishing Hokkaido in five days.
After a breakfast for champions at Obira city centre we started strong in the direction of Rumoi and quickly covered those flat kilometres. We were feeling strong and motivated to get back on track after yesterday’s 154 km stage. The first rain started to fall down on us but we kept on going strong trying to go around mount Shokanbetsu along the coast. Suddenly we faced our first big ascent from 20 to 175 metres in only 3 km but we dealt with it quite well and were really excited about the tunnel we found on top. Little did we know that it was the first of more than 25 km underground that day.
As soon as we left the tunnel on the other side we were greeted by some heavy rain and crazy wind but after less than one kilometre we were back underground for a 3 km tunnel that brought us back to sea level and again the wind and the rain.
Every time we came out of the tunnels we were mesmerized with the beauty of the place. High cliffs piled with vegetation so dense I can only compare it to the north coast of Madeira or the jungle in Mexico and dozens of what looked like impromptu waterfalls – the mountains were throwing the tons of water brought by the clouds back to the sea.
After a while we were getting pretty uncomfortable due to the constant change between the soaking wet and hot outside and the freezing cold wind and truck noise in the tunnels. And then the big climb hit us. After four category climbs we have to face another massive climb under heavy rain. HEAVY RAIN. But we braved it and kept on going. At the top we decided to put on our warmest kit: leggings, thermal layer, and waterproof trousers.
A couple more short climbs and seaside tunnels with windows over the ocean and we were feeling that our progress was not being as good as we expected. We were tired, cold, night was coming and starting to feel very worried about where we could spend the night. My mobile, the only one with data access, was showing us that the closest form of civilization was some 30 km away and there was no way we could devise an alternative plan. Again, we just had to face it and suffer. Soon after this my mobile phone died due to water despite being kept inside the pocket of a waterproof jacket of a very reputable brand. Our contact with civilization was now also gone – we just had to do it to Sapporo.
To be fair, we hit quite a low mental point. It was hard to move from that tunnel when we could see the pouring rain outside. When all your layers are wet and you can cook instant noodles using the amount of water that comes from your socks every single drop that falls on your face makes you shiver and think about the super cliché ”why?” The only positive is that at least 30 of them fall on your face at once so you just look down at your feet and keep them moving. After one last gruelling climb where both of us decided to just dismount and push our bikes uphill, the tropical style rain stopped and a small drizzle welcomed us as we left Shokanbetsu’s range. Thank you Shinto Gods for making us feel so small.
We could now see the Sapporo lights in the distance. The sun had long ago started to shine on the other side of the earth and we still had 30 km to go. 15 km from Sapporo we really started to feel tired. We hadn’t eaten anything since midday and it was 7 pm already. We stopped at a convenient store to eat something hot and ended up sleeping there for 15 minutes. At this point we started to think that it was quite obvious that we would not make it to the outskirts south of Sapporo where we planned to stay the night so we quickly decided that we would spend a bit more and stay in a cheap hotel in central Sapporo. We managed to book one around 8 pm using 7eleven free wifi and made the last 10 km in an avenue stopping every 200 metres due to traffic lights. 4 km from the hotel we had to stop again because I felt I really needed to get some sleep as I was struggling not to fall into dreamland every time we stopped at a traffic light.
After the power nap we finally made it to the hotel. It was now 10 pm, 17 hours on the road for us, and we asked for the weather forecast for tomorrow as we planned to go through the Shikotsu-Toya national park the next day. Not good news.
We silently went into our room and tried to hang everything to dry. My first good news of the day was that my camera, despite wet, had survived and that my mobile phone was now turning on despite a huge water stained portion of the screen. The problem was that the touch screen was still not working. I decided to dry it with the hair drier for minutes on end and to leave it over night inside rice – I was ready to try everything.
After all this we still managed to cycle around 140 km, somehow decent.
Note: Strava only recorded until around kilometre 100 when my mobile phone failed. The rest was added afterwards using mapmyride tracks.